Letter: 'Nuclear Winter' Hysterics

In reference to your article on "Nuclear Winter" (The Scientist, May 1, 1989, page 1) and the commentaries that continue to appear in your Letters section: Most discussants of the current spate of computer-based atmospheric catastrophes assume that computer models and outputs are more reliable than the reality of observation. Although large-fire research in a war and wildland context has been going on for many years, a popularized study of the supposed effects of large fires, directed toward s

Thomas Palmer
Jan 19, 1990

In reference to your article on "Nuclear Winter" (The Scientist, May 1, 1989, page 1) and the commentaries that continue to appear in your Letters section: Most discussants of the current spate of computer-based atmospheric catastrophes assume that computer models and outputs are more reliable than the reality of observation.

Although large-fire research in a war and wildland context has been going on for many years, a popularized study of the supposed effects of large fires, directed toward support of the antinuclear weapons movement, was written and first published in Europe as "The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon," by Crutzen and Birks (Ambio, 1982, pages 115-25). The title did not have much glamour, but the concept did. The idea was reworked, a new computer model was developed, and the results were published in the U.S. in 1983 as "Nuclear winter: Global consequences of...

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